Grading Ruins Everything

Grading Ruins Everything

As home educators, we give our children the gift of valuing their growth—without grades, without measurements. We do this because we believe their success as people doesn’t depend on being better than others, but being the best people they can be.

When I sat with Peter Elbow, my writing mentor, in his Seattle apartment downtown, I told him about how we apply his writing philosophy to our methods. There was a moment where he put up his hand to slow me down.

“Wait—do homeschoolers give grades?”

I replied: “Not usually. We don’t have to.”

Peter looked away for a moment and then said, “That’s brilliant. That means you can apply my methods in the way they were intended. Grading ruins everything.”

Grading ruins everything.

I got a kick out of that conversation because I knew he was right—but people who are in traditional education don’t have that option to just get rid of grading. Peter had tried unsuccessfully to remove as much grading pressure as possible from his classes. Yet in the end, was still expected to assign grades.

We at home? We’ve got none of that pressure. Grading is meaningless. Our goal isn’t to measure our kids against the phantom student, but to help this child right here make meaningful progress.

When my youngest daughter went off to public high school, she made me make one promise to her: that I’d never look at her grades. Her reasoning? I had never graded her or evaluated her before based on grades. Why should I start now?

And so, for all eight years of high school and college, I never logged in, had no idea what GPA she had or how she was doing. In her final semester of college, she sent me a text reporting a comment her writing teacher made on her paper: “You have such a strong writing voice. It’s a pleasure to read your work.” She wanted me to know: the goal we had all along had been achieved.

The grade never mattered.

This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!

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